“Un café neg—… preto. Por favor. Gra—… Obrigada!”
Okay, it’s very lame and gringo-ish of me that the first place we visited in Brazil was McDonald’s. But the bus stopped right in front of the fast food joint and I needed a coffee because even though breakfast was technically included at the hotel in Puerto Iguazú, I could never have it.
I have tried, though, because even if I don’t care much for actual food in the morning, I need coffee.
The first day, I casually and sleepily strolled into the kitchen, but everything was already put away. “Breakfast is from 7 to 9 a.m.,” the lady said. It was 11 a.m.—we had slept late after a long day travelling from Chile to Argentina. Fair enough.
On the second day, I came in at 9:20 a.m. At my watch, anyway. Apparently, at the señora del desayuno’s watch, it was past breakfast time. I filled up a cup of coffee while she was putting the sugar away. I won the silent battle—I had a few packs of sugar in my bag, and I added them to my coffee slowly, looking at her in the eyes with a victorious and silly smile plastered on my face.
Don’t piss me off before I get some caffeine. Ask my son. He knows.
But on the third morning, I lost the fight. At 9:32 a.m., breakfast was gone. Adios café! Adios fuel, energy, happiness in a cup!
We decided to head to Brazil for the day and explore Foz do Iguaçu, a city bigger than Puerto Iguazú on the Argentinian side. Plus, it’s fun to go to Brazil—something different and exotic in an environment that is already exotic to us.
Okay, we are masochists. We like to make our life more difficult than it is. But why sweat in Argentina when you can sweat in Brazil?
Once again, we boarded the bus with our passports and without visa. And once again, the border officers in Argentina gave us a salida stamp but the bus didn’t stop at the Brazilian border, so we crossed without issue.
Three illegals in Brazil, including a toddler. Do report me, please.
At McDonald’s, I greedily gulped my coffee—preto, not negro—and I tried to remember the words I knew in Portuguese. People often say that foreign languages are a matter of practice. It’s true… if you actually speak the language. I don’t speak Portuguese. I can speak Portuguese with a Spanish accent, though.
The city was much quieter than we had expected, especially considering the major attraction nearby. You’d think both Puerto Iguazú and Foz do Iguaçu are in-your-face touristic and tacky, much like Niagara Falls or any city with one big “mecca”. In fact, even though there are businesses catering to tourists, both are remarkably low-key. Puerto Iguazú has the Feira, an open-air “Little Brazil” market catering to drinkers and Brazilian tourists. Foz has… well, one McDonald’s and several luxury hotels. I think tour groups tend to stay in chain hotels close to the falls on either side, and they don’t leave the resort to come to town since they have everything on site.
In Foz, I wanted to walk to the Ponte da Amizade, the bridge that connects Paraguay and Brazil. Not to cross it—we need a visa to Paraguay, and since we were “illegals” in Brazil, I didn’t want to create issues, but just for the sake of it. Something to do, a goal for a walk under the burning hot sun and the humidity.
On the way, we explored a Brazilian supermarket and I found the “brigadeiro-flavoured” products again, as well as fun fruit juices and cakes. I didn’t buy anything though—it was at least 40°C, and all I wanted was a drink.
Walking in Foz felt a bit like walking along Merivale Road in Ottawa, close to where we live. There doesn’t seem to be a “theme”: there were car parts shops, a supermarket, home improvement stores, wholesale clothing stores, a restaurant, a gas station, etc. Nothing really interesting or useful to us.
“On the plus side,” I said, “if someone wants to rob us, we will see him coming in the empty street.” “Nah. Too hot for that. Robberies are on hold during siesta time.”
Two bottles of Coke Zero later, we finally reached the bridge. It was a busy neighbourhood, especially compared to the rest of the city which was very quiet.
“Eh Feng, want some bonés for one Real?”
“Caps or hats, I guess, that’s what the store sells. But it’s funny, same spelling as the English.”
Language is always amusing to me. Feng isn’t the right audience, though. I had to laugh at my own joke.
After checking out the border area and the long lineup of cars and motorbikes to the bridge, we decided to head back to the centro.
We were tired. We wanted to take the bus. Unfortunately, we are never lucky with buses in Brazil.
We waited. And waited.
At one point, I asked someone when the bus was coming. “Oh, it shouldn’t be long! Forty minutes, at most. Twenty, maybe.”
What? Was the guy from the jungle where buses come once a day? I mean, a forty-minute-long wait is quite a long time for a city bus… or is it me?
Must have been me because passengers-in-waiting weren’t checking their watch or showing any sign of impatience.
Maybe it was the heat.
The bus eventually came, and we made it to the terminal de ônibus, where we took another bus back to Argentina.
Next step… oh wait. No next step. Buenos Aires, and home.